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Rug Chapel, a Medieval Treasure, North Wales

Rug Chapel from the back by Barbara Ballard Rug Chapel, correctly known as the Holy Trinity at Rug, was a private chapel built in 1637 by Colonel William Salusbury. The colonel was a royalist and governor of Denbigh castle during the civil war in the 1640s. The estate existed from the 12th century when it was in the ownership of the descendants of Madog ap Maredudd, a prince of Powys. It came into the hands of the Salusbury family upon the marriage of the Welsh heiress to Piers Salusbury in the early 1500s. Although originally having its own curate, in the 18th century the vicars of Corwen held the chaplaincy. Services were held in English, not Welsh.

Rug Chapel front door and bellcote by Barbara Ballard The tiny chapel sits in charming grounds off a main road, but gives off an atmosphere of isolation and peacefulness. A path leads through heather, herb, and lavender beds to the entrance door. On the right is a cross thought to have been originally placed on the chapelís east gable. A bellcote is located above the entrance. The exterior of the building was reconstructed in 1854-55. At this time the windows were renewed and a small vestry added at the north-east corner.

Rug Chapel date carved into beam by Barbara Ballard There is a gallery above and just inside the front door. The interior is almost all original. On either side of the altar are canopied pews. At the end of one was where the service was conducted, the church having no desk or pulpit. The altar rails may not be original to Rug but do date from the 17th century. A triangular credence table (used for holding the bread and wine) dates from 1632 and was originally part of a larger domestic table. The tiled sanctuary, stained glass windows, and altar date from either the late 19th or early 20th century.

Rug Chapel stained glass window by Barbara Ballard On the lower part of the nave walls is 17th century wooden panelling. There are two pews of the same date along the east end of the nave. Other seats consist of benches which are made up of original 17th century seats with added backs. Animal and bird carvings are found on the joining sections. These include dragons, sheep, squirrels, serpents, and pelicans. During the 1854-55 restoration a chancel screen was added. It was done in the style of the 17th century part of the church and includes a lectern-pulpit.

Rug Chapel candelabrum by Barbara Ballard The roof is original to the building and is the most outstanding feature of the chapel. It is carved and coloured. The five main trusses are painted with floral designs, while the roof bosses include flowers, angels, and animals. A wooden frieze that runs the chapelís length is carved with monsters and other oddities. A candelabrum hangs from the roof.

Rug Chapel wall painting by Barbara Ballard A 17th century painting decorates the north wall. It includes the theme of life and death detailed in such motifs as candlesticks, an hour glass, a dial, skeletons, and skulls. Various inscriptions are in Welsh.

Rug Chapel is a fascinating and interesting place. Itís not only worth a visit but worth going out of the way to see.

Visitor Information

Rug Chapel
On the A5 just past its intersection with the A494 west of Corwen and Llangollen, North Wales
Open: April-end Sep, 10am-5pm Wed-Sun, also open BH Mon
Cadw property, entry fee; visitor centre, exhibition, shop.

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